Falling temperatures won’t keep Gary Marshall out of the water over the winter.
He is preparing to swim 155 miles along the River Trent next May to raise money for the mental health charity, MIND – and swims without a wetsuit in Salford Quays and Lake Windermere will be part of the training.
Gary, aged 36, who lives in Chapeltown, is using the challenge to make a serious point about mental health.
He has personal experience of stress, anxiety and depression and found that physical exercise played a big part on his road to recovery.
He is raising awareness and funds to encourage others to seek help and avoid suffering as long as he did.
Working with a crew, Gary is aiming to swim a minimum of 15 miles a day, starting at Shugborough Hall, Staffordshire, passing Burton, Nottingham, and Newark and finishing where the Trent joins the River Humber.
He had been hoping to swim along canals and lochs in Scotland, but failed to secure permission from the canals authority.
“I have been swimming long distances in pools for about three years,” he says. “This year I have taken to the open water and competed in endurance events during the summer and I am going to carry on doing some ‘chill swims’.”
Gary, who used to run an award-winning restaurant in Rutland and is now a logistics co-ordinator for motor sports events, was a keen swimmer as a youngster and got back into it on doctor’s advice.
First, it was to help a shoulder injury after a minor car accident, then it was to help him improve his mental health that had suffered as a result of a series of personal problems.
“If it can happen to me, it can happen to anybody. Beforehand I was the happy-go-lucky type of guy who was the life and soul of the party. I went to somebody who didn’t want to get out of bed.”
He got through it with the help of medication, counselling and swimming.
Now he says: “I’m good and I’m looking forward to the challenge in the water.”
Gary hopes to raise an initial £3,000 through corporate sponsorship to cover costs such as boat hire, equipment and provisions for him and his three-man crew.
Training continues, whatever the weather, in Treeton Dyke, between Woodhouse Mill and Swallownest, and there is advice on getting used to the cold water. “It’s a shock to the system, but once you are in, you’re in. It’s a case of spending a minute or two getting used to it before you start swimming.”
He will be setting up an online Just Giving page; contact firstname.lastname@example.org.